Nevada Day: Family of drilling competitors continues tradition
November 1, 2009
Wes Leedy, 22, knew his drill was at an angle as he drilled in Nevada Day’s annual World Championship Single Jack Rock Drilling contest on Saturday.
He could see the mistake for himself, then the announcer declared it over the microphone. His dad let him know, then as a final straw, his mom shouted it from the crowd.
“I know, Mom,” he shouted back.
“In the heat of the moment, I can get frustrated,” he explained later. “But I know they do it because they care about me, and they know what they’re talking about.”
His dad, Skip, is a five-time world champion and his mother, Susan, has also tried drilling in the past. On Saturday, he competed against his father, uncle Craig Leedy and brother Tim Leedy, 18.
“It’s a family tradition,” said Tim, who drilled last year for the first time at the World Championships, setting the record for the deepest drill for a first-timer.
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“You get to take all your anger out on a little piece of steel,” he said. “It feels really good to hit it as hard as you can.”
Contestants use a four-pound hammer to pound a drill bit into a block of granite as done by early miners. The deepest hole in 10 minutes wins.
Skip Leedy began competing in 1981, partnering with Tom Donovan in double jack drilling. Through the years, he said, he has maintained a close relationship with his alma mater the Mackay School of Mines, and has coached many of the drillers he now competes against.
Although surrounded by many of his own family members, it extends beyond that, he said.
“It’s kind of our big happy family, even if we’re not blood,” he said of his fellow rock-drillers.
For those who are blood, it can be contentious at times.
“We’re hard on each other. We’re always coaching each other,” Susan Leedy said. “But we’re there for each other.”
For hometown favorite Tobin Rupert, owner of Rupert’s Auto Body, things didn’t work out too well.
“I had a tough day,” he said.
He said he felt pretty good after the first five minutes and expected that he had drilled more than 6 inches, as he usually does in that amount of time. However, when he realized he had only drilled 4.5 inches, he lost his concentration.
“I got so frustrated. I made the fatal mistake of trying to make up time,” he explained. “Oh well, I’ll try again next year.”
Emmit Hoyle, of Colorado, won the $6,000 purse for the second year in a row with a drill of 1323⁄32 inches.